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The serial entrepeneur

The serial entrepeneur

Source: Nigel Walsh, Level Four

Nigel Walsh, CEO of Level Four, takes the two-minute test

Date and place of birth: 7/6/55 Felixstowe, UK
Residence: UK
Marital status: Married
Education: Woodbridge School
Career path: Post Office (76-79) – data processing officer/programmer
Systems Programming Ltd (79-81) – software consultant
Plessey Telecom (81-83) – software development manager
Systems Designers Ltd (83-85) – software consultant
The Software Partnership Ltd (85-94) – co-founder/director
Deluxe Data International (94-95) managing director
Impart (95- present) co-founder/director
Nomad Software Ltd. (00-02) chairman
Level Four Software Ltd (02- present) chairman/CEO
Current posts: Level Four Software Ltd – Chairman/CEO

Q: What was your first job?
A: Data processing officer - Post Office Research Centre. I started work at 19 after dropping out of university. My fist job at the PO’s research centre at Martlesham Heath was not intended as a long-term career. Like many people, I discovered what I was good at by accident.

Q: Who is or was your mentor?
A: Ian Booth – my business partner and friend for the last 22 years. I worked with Ian at Systems Designers in Manchester and we decided to start our own business to build software products rather than sell staff and projects. Always go into business with people you trust. I trust Ian totally.

Q: Which business leaders do you most admire?
A: Philip Hughes (artist and co-founder of Logica Plc) – a cultured businessman; John Harvey Jones – a leader in adversity; Jimmy Treybig (founder Tandem Computers Inc) – a nice chap to share a beer with; Bill Gates – I’m old enough to admire him for giving IBM a bloody nose!

Q: If you weren't in your current job, which company would you most like to lead?
A: Any small UK software company – I like developing start-ups. The inventive stage at the beginning of any company’s life is the most exciting. Taking on larger established players who have lost their way is particularly pleasing. At Level Four Software, for example, we intend to provide a wake-up call for NCR and Wincor Nixdorf in the ATM software market.

Q: Do you read books on management theory? If so, which has influenced you the most?
A: No – I trust my personal judgement. I don’t feel that the talents you need to create a small start-up can be learnt from a book. Building larger businesses once they are established is another matter.

Q: Which competitors do you benchmark your company's performance against?
A: Wincor Nixdorf – good engineers held back by large company politics

Q: What has been your best experience in business?
A: Winning my first contract (at TSB Bank) for the first company I co-founded. The head of IT refused to see me so I applied for a job at the bank. After two days of intensive tests and interviews I got to meet the boss. When I told him that I wasn’t interested in his job but really wanted to tell him about a new company I was starting he burst out laughing. I got the contract for the sheer cheek.

Q: What was your biggest mistake in business?
A: Trusting larger joint venture partners. I learnt that you have to make your own success and not rely on others. The only person who will make you rich is you.

Q: What keeps you awake at night?
A: Teenage sons.

Q: How do you relax?
A: Swimming, skiing and walking – I’m physical not cerebral.

Q: What was the last gadget you bought?
A: I hate gadgets – my wife buys all the gadgets in our house.

Q: Favourite Web site
A: – to get to my holiday home.

Q: Desert island disc/book
A: Early Bob Marley and most reggae/David Bowie.

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